August 27, 2010

If I've Won Cronkite, I've Won America

jessica lynch.jpg
PFC Jessica Ogilvy


Yesterday, on the Ron & Fez show (XM202-- this is a stellar show), the director of The Tillman Story was interviewed.  The Tillman Story is a docu-drama on the the cover-up of the death of Pat Tillman.

I haven't seen the movie yet; but something the director said to host Ron Bennington completely floored me.

If you can remember the Jessica Lynch story, she was ambushed and attacked by Iraqi soldiers, and, apparently, ninjas, who stabbed and tortured her and then hospitalized her.  Then came the daring rescue operation with Rangers and Seals, the first ever military rescue of a POW (?)  We've since learned that that there were no ninjas in Jessica's ambush, and the rescue footage was staged and edited by the military.

jessica lynch rescue1.jpg"this is impressive"


jessica lynch rescue2.jpg

That the military would manufacture the truth doesn't surprise me.  I've seen enough action movies to know that a) it's always a cover-up; b) it goes all the way to the top.  Poor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, was the victim of a military cover-up 11 times between 1984 and 1999.  It's a wonder he wasn't later killed by a drunk driver in a terrible hit and run accident, but I guess they figured keep your enemies closer.


commando scene.JPGSully chose to take the blue pill


Because of the 2007 Congressional hearings, we have finally been able to see the real, unedited footage of that rescue, and it shows... well, it's boring.  No bad guys, no radio for air support, no one needs to shoot two pistols at once.  They do actually get her, but you clearly get the sense that this less for Jessica's benefit than for the camera's.

I know, I know, it was Evil George Bush and the Republicans hiding the truth, trying to get us flag waving.  For the record, I didn't expect it to change at all under Obama, and so far so right.  No one who sits in that chair is going to willingly give up any power.  He can barely make things work with all that power, "how am I going to do this with less?"  Power corrupts and absolute blah blah blah. Maybe instead of pardons, an outgoing President could sign away powers?

So this is what the director of The Tillman Story said, and I'm trying to quote from memory:

Ron: And the other thing I found fascinating was how the news networks went along with it.

Amir: I'm so glad you brought this up, because this is really the real story.  That unedited footage (of Lynch's rescue) we show in the movie didn't come from some undercover/hacker network, it wasn't Deep Throat-- we got that footage from the regular news media.  They had both the edited and unedited footage the whole time, but they chose to run the edited footage because it was more dramatic.

Holy crap.  You almost expect it from Fox News, ok; maybe even CNN, they just want ratings, fine.  But did no one in 2003 think to show the unedited footage?  Even selfishly to boost their own ratings, did no one try to make the story, "Hey, Look, the MSM Is Lying To You!"

When they pretend not to know the truth about some pop culture story, the real shame is on me for expecting truthful reporting on nonsense.  But  for the media to pretend not to know the truth about something like this-- dozens of news outlets, all playing chicken hoping no one  blinks first and tells the truth...


II.

There's a lot written about the causes of the failings of the Froth Estate: beholden to ratings, a dumbed down America, having to compete with other media, but I submit a slightly different cause: there's too many of them.

Back in the day, when there were three networks giving America the news, if any one of them went a different way, it would have been big news.  "If I've lost Cronkite," President Johnson maybe said, "I've lost America" and he was right for a different reason than he meant: he wasn't the window to America, he was the filter of the information.  Cronkite wasn't filtering anymore.

In fact, the intellectually snobby thing to do circa 1969 was pretend to read the foreign press.  If you read Le Monde you were sophisticated, and if you read Izvestiya and Pravda-- smuggled out or transcribed from memory, of course-- you were outing yourself as an intelligence analyst.

Now there are news outlets everywhere, all competing with each other-- hence the focus isn't truth but survival, and survival means more boob pictures and a willingness to play by the government's rules because if they cut you off, you're done.

There's an even worse factor in play: the multitude of news outlets makes you think they're all checking on each other, that even if one gets it wrong the other 19 won't.  But most are  getting their story from the same single source, the AP.

"So where do we go for objective news?"  I don't think that's the question, because the market requests it, and the way to get the market to request it is for all of us to be aware of the tricks and manipulations of media.

I make fun of John Stewart because it seems silly to me, but maybe shows like his are the only thing standing between us and, well, CNN.

---

http://twitter.com/thelatpsych










Comments

There's a lot written ab... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 12:19 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

There's a lot written about the causes of the failings of the Froth Estate

Very good!

The biggest contribution made to American Journalism by Walter Cronkite was his dying.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (6 votes cast)
"survival means more boob p... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 1:39 PM | Posted by Mookie: | Reply

"survival means more boob pictures and a willingness to play by the government's rules because if they cut you off, you're done."

I'd add that willingness to play by large corporations' rules is at least as critical to mainstream media survival, because if they cut you off (financially), you're really done -- ie, you literally can't continue to exist as a corporation.

Combined with laziness / lack of resources, which leads to the media's failure to look deeper into stories they are fed by press releases, deference to the preferred messages of powerful interests (gov't & business) is likely the main reason for the sorry state of journalism today.

Jon Stewart's The Daily Show is actually some of the best real journalism around, because the researchers actually dig to explain the background (eg, history, conflicting prior actions by the actor of the day, etc.).

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (10 votes cast)
Spot on. Cattle, a... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 1:56 PM | Posted by Brian Driggs: | Reply

Spot on.

Cattle, all of them, seeking to delay their inevitable meeting with the slaughterhouse. Their business model is unsustainable and uncompetitive, so they are forced to rely upon sensationalism and gratuitous soft-core porn maintain the ever-dwindling attention spans of the mouth-breathing, unwashed masses.

The "news" has been anything but for years. They are in the business of selling advertisements and little else.

John Stewart for President. :)

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Or you can just watch McNei... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 2:11 PM | Posted by Swampy: | Reply

Or you can just watch McNeil/Lehrer Newshour if you don't want sensationalism. I mean there are choices you know - Al-Jezeera, RT, etc.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -2 (2 votes cast)
"So where do we go for o... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"So where do we go for objective news?" I don't think that's the question, because the market requests it, and the way to get the market to request it...

I'm having difficulty following this sentence. I think I know what it is trying to say, but the actual words don't seem to lead there. The last two posts weren't proofread very well.

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That's a laugh. PBS and Al... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 3:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Swampy's comment, by no: | Reply

That's a laugh. PBS and Al-J are just different flavors of international leftist propaganda.

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The way to get the market t... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 3:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The way to get the market to request it is for people to actually care. If people would rather spend their time/money on the boobs than the truth, then no market is every going to supply the truth.

There have been widely publicized incidents of media dishonesty and outright lying, but did they cause people to change their media consumption habits? People don't want to truth. It's boring and complex and leaves you feeling powerless.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (4 votes cast)
Maybe I've been reading too... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 3:55 PM | Posted by colin: | Reply

Maybe I've been reading too much last psych, but when I saw this story all I could think was "Are you happy media? You made an issue out of a building project, gave a voice to extremists and some asshole listened to them to give you your next story. Well done."

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/08/27/new.york.muslim.stabbed/

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Mookie, if you think The Da... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2010 9:43 PM | Posted, in reply to Mookie's comment, by greenpad: | Reply

Mookie, if you think The Daily Show is giving you real news, you're part of the problem. Jon Stewart only gives the *funny* side of the story. His favorite tactic is to tell half of the story and make it seem like a politician just does something because he's evil. He almost never gives the relevant background because that would make things make sense, and then the joke wouldn't be funny. Whenever he gets called out on it, he says, "This is fake news!!!"

I'm not attacking you--I'm saying please do more research. Jon Stewart doesn't even *want* to give an unbiased point of view.

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To the greenpad: As someone... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2010 5:26 AM | Posted by Sunshine: | Reply

To the greenpad: As someone who has watched The Daily Show for 10 years (since I was 12), I can never remember him claiming to be anything but making jokes/debateably representing his own point of view.
It is fake news. It is a news-like program run by a comedian who is interested in current events, but mostly in being a (successful) comedian (See: Stewart's resume before The Daily Show). The reason that it is valuable is because without The Daily Show, 50% of the audience would get their news from the Huffington Post, and 50% would get no news at all.
Beyond that, no matter how you think the show is edited, I don't think the quality and depth of their research can be shat on in comparison to any "serious" news organization out there. No one else seems to bother looking at footage of previous engagements/statements/sessions or giving a fuck about what Congress did before what they said today. If nothing else, the program might make people google some shit. And it may, through their attitude/research, embarrass the ever-loving hell out of cable news networks. But if Jon Stewart wanted to be a journalist (or, more importantly, APPEAR to be a journalist) he would take some of the "credibility"(read: media crack) that they have tried to get him to accept credit for. He doesn't want to be that guy. He wants to write a smart fake-news program. And if he happens to show-up the real guys by giving half a shit calling people on their previous statements (and I'll concede that the setups for some jokes, particularly in the last 2 or 3 years, are overly constructed/edited), I don't think he minds that one bit.

I know that's not the central issue here, I've had problems with people claiming that a news show on comedy central has a "social responsibility" for a while. Just because you can learn from the show doesn't mean it has a responsibility to teach you.

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It's telling when John Stew... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2010 1:12 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

It's telling when John Stewart is repeatedly brought up when people talk about "real news." It's telling when the talking heads confuse "impartiality" with equivalence. If it weren't so sad, it would be amusing to watch news shows allow fundamentalists and/or fundamentalist/cynical political operatives to claim the same credibility as scientists when discussing the theory of evolution or global warming or cosmology.

Interesting fact: Dow Jones, CNN and Google no long deal with the AP. Just to name a few. AP is shedding customers left and right. Appreciate your point that the output of news corporations is shaped "by the government's rules because if they cut you off, you're done."

Perhaps that's why there's an explosion of alternative sources of news. That and moving away from the insistence that maximized profits and shareholder complacency is news' bottom line- trumping the actual news.

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"Holy crap. You almost exp... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2010 11:22 PM | Posted by skeptic: | Reply

"Holy crap. You almost expect it from Fox News, ok; maybe even CNN, they just want ratings, fine. But did no one in 2003 think to show the unedited footage? Even selfishly to boost their own ratings, did no one try to make the story, "Hey, Look, the MSM Is Lying To You!"

How does laziness sound as an explanation? Why explore when you can cut and paste? Why think at all?

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it took me a long time to c... (Below threshold)

August 30, 2010 12:50 PM | Posted by randy: | Reply

it took me a long time to come around to Jon Stewart's Daily Show. but now that I'm watching, I won't stop. it is serious business.

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From another Anonymous comm... (Below threshold)

September 2, 2010 1:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

From another Anonymous commenter:
"People don't want to truth. It's boring and complex and leaves you feeling powerless."

Then why the talk of CNN and the like being garbage, not worth watching? And I don't mean just here. I feel your comment is only partially true. There is a market for both truth and lies.

It takes time for a people to wise up to quality changes, but it does happen. It'll earn more viewers right now, do better considering their current reputation. But it erodes their future reputation, and thus eventually their ability to keep viewers.

The problem, as I see it, is not that nobody ever wants the truth. The media is only concerned about this quarter, and this year. A slow death involving frantic splashing and gasps to be the most impressive right now, that results in the inhalation of much water. Instead of floating with care and dignity, allowing them to breath normally and survive.

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